If you've been looking for more consistency in your golf game, you've probably been told that you have to start with sound fundamentals. They're the building blocks, the foundation upon which the whole golf swing is built. It can be confusing, though, because there's a lot of debate over which elements are fundamentals and which are simply preferences. So let's start first with the definition of the word:
[ fuhn-duh-men-tl ] def: a basic principle, rule, law, or the like, that serves as the groundwork of a system; essential part.*
By definition then, a golf fundamental is essential, something you can't do without. If you don't have a secure grip on the handle, for example, it's going to be difficult to move and control the club. If you don't set up to the ball in a way that allows your body to move athletically, you can't expect to swing the club with much authority. And if you don't have a reliable way to aim the clubface, the ball isn't going to fly towards your target very often.
Pretty logical, but it's also very easy to get misled by the exceptions to the rule. We see the club champion who plays every shot off of his back foot, or the kid who can carry it 300 yards with a grip that looks like he's revving up a motorcycle throttle. We figure we can freelance, too, and ignore the tried and true basics. Usually it's not long before we find ourselves in trouble.
So what's the truth as it relates to golf fundamentals? For some expert advice we reached out to Skip Guss, a decorated teacher who played on the PGA Tour and worked alongside legends like Bob Toski, Jack Grout and Sam Snead. Skip boiled it down very simply:
"Deviation leads to compensation."
Yes, you can learn to play with an unorthodox grip or stance. You can let your right elbow fly or your left elbow chicken-wing. But it makes it harder. You're introducing additional moving parts to a machine that's already complicated enough. Your best bet according to Skip? Start from square, start from neutral, with the simplest motion possible. As Skip says:
"Simple is efficient and efficient is repeatable. Repeatable is just another word for consistent."
And he added one important insight - golf is not like riding a bike. Over time, we all deviate. We all fall into bad habits. This is why players on tour are so reliant on alignment sticks - they're constantly monitoring their alignment and aim fundamentals to make sure they're not drifting too far from square and neutral. You need to stay on top of the building blocks in your game, too.
To help reinforce proper fundamentals, scroll through the following Do's and Don'ts from Skip on grip, posture and alignment. Devoting some time to these basics in the off-season will pay some big dividends this spring.
We hope you enjoy these tips. For more great content and to learn more about Skip's teaching, visit the GolfRite website.
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Golf Grip Fundamentals
"Good players do very little with their hands. Poor players do too much. A good grip allows you to hold the club lightly, which allows your hands and wrists to be soft, which in turn allows the club to hinge, release and accelerate with tremendous speed through the ball. 'Release' means to let go. You can't release something if you have a death grip on it." - Skip
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Golf Posture Fundamentals
"Good golf posture is athletic posture, so be an athlete. When you address the ball, feel poised to move like a defensive back in football, an infielder in baseball or a tennis player returning serve. The ready positions you get in in those sports are very, similar to the way you should stand to the golf ball." - Skip
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Golf Alignment Fundamentals
"Alignment is a railroad track. There are two parallel lines. The outside rail is the target line. The inside rail, which is parallel to the outside rail, is the body line. Aligning your body parallel to the target line is neutral. It gives you the best chance to start the ball on target." - Skip
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Pre-Shot Routine Fundamentals
"A well crafted pre-shot routine allows you to apply your good fundamentals in a fluid, dynamic way. It frees you up so you're not thinking about the fundamentals at all. You're focused exclusively on the target and the shot you're about to play.
A great analogy for how your pre-shot routine should feel is dancing. If you're at a wedding and you ask your wife to dance, you don't march her out like a robot, freeze in place, and then wait for the next song to play. You're already feeling the music and getting into rhythm as you make your way to the dance floor. Feel the rhythm of your shot and as you grip the club, pick out your target, align your clubface, settle into your stance and pull the trigger - do it all in that rhythm." - Skip
* Definition courtesy of dictionary.com